4th/5th grade Color Value Study Candy Canes

I’m so glad (for the most part) that I’m an art teacher who can benefit from online art project sharing. How did teachers get new projects before the internet??

One of my favorite projects, the 2nd grade poppy field paintings, came from Katie Mallette (@katieplus4 on Instagram) online.

She also introduced me and 18,000 of my art teacher friends of the Facebook art teachers’ group to another of my favorite art projects, the oil pastel value study candy canes. They looked gorgeous and fun, and best of all, didn’t take 1-2 months to finish.

I have very limited experience blending oil pastels. Usually I use them as a solid color by themselves with no blending. Sooo…all of us learned during this project – ha.

I watched a YouTube video on it and read a step by step illustrated blog. The long way to do it is to start with the white middle, add the dark outer edges, add the lighter colors in between with no overlapping, and then blend it all together piece by piece.

We learned though trial and error that it saves you a TON of time to add your darkest color to the outer edges 1st. Then add your lighter version of that color halfway on the darker color and halfway off – hello automatic blending. Then add the white in the middle but slightly blend the points of contact only, not blending the whole thing. 

It works best for the white middle to add the white oil pastel vertically first, THEN blend just the 2 edges of the white and the lighter oil pastel color.

Descriptive words by themselves are worthless without pictures, though. So, if a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a chart of 6 pictures worth? (6000 words, ha.)

I made this chart to help my artists visually understand what we’re doing, but it ended up also being helpful when students asked me if their candy cane was done or not. I could ask them to compare it to the chart and tell me if they were on step 6 or not.

So, some guidelines for blended candy cane success are:

  • Blend the edges of oil pastel color contact (the line where the darker oil pastel meets the lighter oil pastel, the line where the lighter oil pastel meets the white), not blending all the way across the candy cane.


  • Only get your color pairs 2 at a time instead of getting all 4 colors at once (for example, getting navy blue and light blue oil pastels and coloring only the “A” parts of an A/B pattern, then getting only the red and pink oil pastels and coloring the “B” parts of the A/B pattern.) This will help eliminate the dreaded coloring “A” next to another “A” segment instead of the alternating A/B pattern.


  • Start at the outer edges and work towards the middle white. Don’t start with the white.


  • Align the white middle section all the way through the candy cane to maintain the optical illusion of volume.


  • When drawing diagonal lines on your candy cane, space the lines far apart. The best spacing seemed to be 3 finger widths per section.


  • The most challenging part of drawing the lines is the top curve of the candy cane. Curve your lines slightly at the top.


  • There’s no shame in having a class set of shape tracers to start with. We drew them freehand and I decided after that class I wanted the main lesson to be mastering the blending.


  • If you get something on your white or if it gets muddy, use your fingernail to scrape off what you don’t want so you can re-add the white. Even the tiniest of fingernails work fine for this.


  • Clean your white oil pastel frequently by coloring it on the extra part of the paper that’ll be cut off when you’re done


  • Bigger is better, 6″ tall candy canes work better. I made an entire class set of too small card stock templates that don’t work as well as this size. So that was a lot of wasted time – wahhh.

Other than that, so easy! 😂 I promise, they really are pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Have fun! Below are some candy cane oil pastel value studies in various stages of progress.



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